It’s the little things that add up: an effortlessly booked flight; a VIP parking spot; an authentic local meal. These are the details that can lead to a perfect holiday. Use these travel hacks every time you travel, so you can avoid pitfalls and take advantage of the best opportunities available.
Whether your passport is full of stamps or waiting for its first excursion, you’ll get the most out of your next holiday with the help of these travel hacks.
- Browse in an incognito window
When you search for flights, accommodation or rental vehicles online, turn on private browsing in an incognito window. Travel sites may be able to see how often you’ve checked their prices, and you could be charged more if they think you’re serious about booking.
- Pay with POLi or BPAY
You can avoid credit card fees by using POLi or BPAY if your airline supports these methods of payment. Some airlines charge for using PayPal, so check payment options and fees before you complete your transactions.
- Use flight comparison sites
For the most options and best fares, use flight comparison sites to locate flights, but also double check fares directly with the airline. You can sometimes save on flights when you book directly and cut out the middleman. Another added benefit to this strategy is that you simplify your communications and customer service when you’re only corresponding with the airline and not a third party.
- Use SeatGuru
Not all plane seats are created equal, and without a guide like SeatGuru, you won’t know which seats recline or which amenities (such as Wi-Fi and AC power) are available on your plane. Use this handy app to choose your seats when booking your flights.
- Veer to the left
Research shows that most people are right handed and tend to turn to the right first, so do the opposite. Go to the left and you may be able to move faster through airport security and customs.
- Bring a portable charger
Arrive at the airport with a fully loaded portable charger and plug it in whenever possible. That way, you can keep your contacts, maps and itineraries close at hand by easily resuscitating your phone when it runs out of power.
- Tie a ribbon on it
At the end of a long flight, it’s likely you’ll want to grab your luggage and escape the airport as swiftly as possible. Make luggage identification easier by tying a bright ribbon or colourful luggage strap on your bags so you can spot them easily.
- Bring an empty water bottle
Instead of buying bottled water at the airport, bring your own reusable water bottle and fill it up after you pass through security. If possible, bring a collapsible bottle that can be tucked into your luggage when it’s empty to save you carrying it around.
- Take photos of your parking space and luggage
Take photos of your parking space and your checked luggage before you embark on your flight. Wandering around an enormous parking lot is no way to end your holiday, so keep that parking space photo handy. Photos of your checked bags can also be very useful. If you encounter problems with lost luggage, you can show the pictures to airport staff, and they’ll know exactly what to look for.
- Ask about upgrades the day of your flight
If you want to upgrade your ticket, get to your gate early so you’re the first to hear about any opportunities. Some airlines even offer upgrades to first class the day of the flight (for an additional fee, of course). Be aware that some airlines still have dress codes for first class, so consider your wardrobe if you’re hoping to take advantage of these opportunities.
- Exercise before you fly
Even if you plan to spend your holiday lounging on a beach, travelling can be stressful. Equip yourself to handle the stress better by exercising before you fly. The endorphins released during exercise can improve your mood and help you to feel healthier and happier.
- Pack a few essentials in your cabin luggage
Be prepared for the possibility you could be separated from your checked luggage for an extra day and pack a spare pair of socks and underwear in your cabin bag. Basic travel-sized toiletries like a toothbrush and moisturiser can also help you to arrive at your destination feeling fresh.
- Add back support
Some plane seats are more comfortable than others. If your seat doesn’t offer enough back support, roll up a blanket or jacket and place it across the lower seat back. If you’re too short to comfortably rest your feet on the floor, use your backpack or carry-on as a footrest.
- Bring a massage ball with you
A simple massage ball can work out sore muscles during a long flight. You can also place it between your seat and your shoulders and lean back on it for muscle relief.
- Save a general packing list
Use a tried and tested packing list every time you travel to avoid leaving essential items at home. Download one online and adapt it to suit your needs (check out the ultimate travel check list at www.scti.co.nz).
- Pack a sarong
It’s not just for the beach anymore! A sarong might just be the most versatile item in your luggage. It can serve as a blanket at the airport or a way to cover your shoulders at a religious landmark.
- Leave hair appliances behind
Consider leaving your hair dryer, curling irons or straighteners at home, as these items can occupy a lot of space in your luggage. Check with your hotel to find out whether these hair tools are available or pack some surf spray and embrace the natural look while you travel.
- Bag your shoes
Keep the rest of your packed items clean and protected by putting your shoes in bags before you pack them. Purse bags work well, but even grocery bags can serve in a pinch.
- Pack heavy items close to the wheels
Reduce wrinkles and keep your luggage from toppling over by packing your heaviest items close to the wheels. If your bags are flirting with the weight limit, wear your heaviest clothing during the flight.
- Put all your tech stuff in one bag
Cords, chargers, devices, camera accessories and external drives: all these tech items, small and tangled as they are, can make a mess in your luggage. Tame them by storing all tech items in one zippable bag.
Hacks for travelling in a new country
- Download Google Translate before your trip
With the Google Translate app, you can hold your phone’s camera up to any text, and the app will translate it for you. This is perfect for street signs, lists of ingredients on food items, public transport schedules, etc.
- Change money ahead of time
Avoid changing your money at the airport, where you’ll most likely pay high exchange rates. Instead, shop around for the best rates and terms and order currency in advance to get the best deal.
- Be aware of pickpocketing
If you’re travelling in an area that is notorious for pickpocketing, carry a dummy wallet with you. Keep your real wallet close to your body in an inconspicuous place (such as an inside jacket pocket) and leave the dummy wallet in a back pocket with little or no change in it.
- Save a few Google maps directly to your phone
When you first arrive in a new country, you may not be able to connect to Wi-Fi or data right away. A few key maps downloaded to your phone can help you get to your hotel or meet up with your friends/family.
- Prepare to communicate
Download Viber, WhatsApp and Skype before you depart. Between these three apps, you should be able to communicate over Wi-Fi with friends and family back home from almost any destination.
- Wear a medical ID bracelet
If you have a health condition that emergency medical personnel should know about, wear a medical ID bracelet and display the information on your phone. Some phones include a setting that allows this information to be seen without having to enter a password first.
- Split up your valuables
Don’t carry all your valuables, such as passport, keys, phone, cash and credit cards, in one place. Split them between the safe at your accommodation, your day bag and leave some emergency cash hidden in your accommodation. If you’re travelling alone, get two hotel keys and put one in your wallet or purse and leave the other at the reception desk.
- Save emergency numbers in your phone
Before you depart for your trip, save local emergency numbers in your phone. You can find this information on Wikipedia by clicking on your destination, which should have a police, fire and ambulance number listed.
- Use extra caution
Spend some time researching any local dangers at your destination. Go to the Safe Travel website (www.safetravel.govt.nz), search for your destination and navigate to the ‘safety and security’ option. When travelling to a foreign country, it’s important to have your wits about you and follow a few general safety rules, such as never accepting drinks from strangers (no matter how friendly they may seem), only using official, reputable taxi companies, and staying in regular contact with friends and family at home so they know you’re safe.
Day trip hacks
- Waterproof your belongings
If rain is forecast, line your day bag with a waterproof cover (available at most camping/outdoor shops) to keep personal items dry. If you don’t want to invest in waterproof items for your trip, another option is to use a waterproofing spray on jackets, bags, luggage, shoes and other travel necessities before your trip.
- Bring a smaller bag and some cash
Take a smaller backpack/across body bag with you that you can use for day hikes and long days out, and always carry some cash, even if you don’t think you’ll need it.
- Use a parking app
If you plan on renting a vehicle on your trip, download a parking app such as ParkWhiz to locate and pay for parking spots during day trips. You may be able to reserve great spots you wouldn’t have known about without the app.
Car rental hacks
- Snap some photos before you drive away
Photograph any dings or scratches on the car before you use it, in case you’re charged for damage done by someone else.
- Check the rental rates on different versions of a company’s website
Rates can vary depending on the location of your IP address and which version of the website you’re viewing. For example, check for rates on an international hire company’s website here at home, as well as their website for your destination. The prices can vary widely.
- Review your insurance
Check your travel insurance policy benefits because you may not need to buy insurance from the rental company. Southern Cross Travel Insurance policies, for example, automatically includes up to $5000 cover for rental vehicle excess if the vehicle is unexpectedly stolen or damaged.
- Use an app to find the best foodie spots
- Never miss an outdoor market
Visit local farmers’ markets for in-season produce and local street food. Make sure you have cash on hand in case the vendors can’t accept your credit card. Look for vendors with long queues (especially queues of locals) – it’s likely to be worth the wait!
- Talk to the locals
We’re not talking about the hotel concierge here. Get out and talk to the locals about where to find the best food around. Talk to cab drivers and vendors at farmers’ markets to learn about the best out-of-the-way eateries in town.
Travel document hacks
- Email yourself copies of your documents
Take photos of your passport, visa, itinerary, flight tickets, hotel confirmations, tour tickets, and any other important documents, and email them to yourself. At any time, you’ll be able to pull up the documents you need, even if you lose your phone (you can use an internet cafe to access your email). It’s also wise to keep hard copies in your carry-on and checked luggage.
- Keep a copy of your travel insurance handy
You never know when you’ll need to use your travel insurance when you’re overseas. Keep a copy of your policy handy and put your insurer’s phone number in your contact list so you can easily reach them if needed.